Traveling with young kids has got to be, hands down, one of the most taxing parenting experiences of them all. I mean, I’m personally not a great traveler to begin with, but when you’re with a couple of kids who can’t sit still and are bored to tears literally as soon as you set out, you’ve got a majorly stressful, ridiculously annoying, potentially nightmarish situation on hand.
Part of the problem is that kids are not meant to sit still for that many hours. Plus, they’re in unfamiliar places, without all of their “stuff” (i.e. toys). And it’s not like you can bring every precious item of theirs — on top of the zillion outfits, diapers, wipes … and don’t get me started on snacks! Whenever I travel, I end up packing so many, you’d think I was traveling to a deserted island for three weeks.
Considering how difficult traveling with kids can be, it’s always good to have a couple of traveling tricks up your sleeve. One parent recently shared one such hack (involving balloons, no less!) on Reddit, and I thought it was absolutely awesome.
The parent, who goes by the username orchid_breeder, explains that taking a few balloons with you when you travel can end up providing the kind of simple, satisfying, and exciting entertainment that kids crave while traveling. And because balloons take up pretty much zero space when not inflated, it’s totally easy and convenient to have them around.
“Many times I have been saved traveling with balloons,” the parent wrote, going on to give a few examples of times that balloons were just what were needed when your kids were desperate for something fun — and you were desperate for something that would keep them occupied long enough to take a breath.
“We’ve played with them in a hotel room when the kid need[ed] to get energy out,” the parent wrote. Oh, do I remember times that my kids were bouncing off the walls in the hotel room with nothing to do. I was afraid they were going to pull the curtains off the rails or break the mini fridge if I didn’t think of an activity STAT.
The Reddit user also recalled a time that balloon-play was an awesome impromptu activity at the airport. “When I had a plane that was delayed at O’Hare I was able to whip out a balloon that was in my carry on and blow it up,” the user wrote. “We found a gate that was empty and play[ed] volleyball over the seats for 90 minutes before the plane boarded.”
Now, I know what some of you are thinking. “What if the balloon pops? Popping balloons scare the crap out of kids, not to mention fellow travelers!” A couple of Reddit users also brought up the fact that balloons are actually pretty unsafe for young kids, because they are a potentially dangerous choking hazard.
One user had the genius idea of subbing in a couple of inflatable beach balls. They’re less dangerous and prone to popping, are equally small and portable, and serve a similar purpose. I thought this was a fantastic idea, and a smart alternative to balloons for parents who have reservations. Of course, if you are watching your kids like a hawk (which I think is what most of us do while traveling in unfamiliar places), I think it’s unlikely that balloons would be too much of a hazard. But, we all know our kids best, and what would and would not work for them.
Either way, I love the idea of keeping little surprises like this in your travel bag for your kids. And as the Reddit user says at the end of the post, there are “infinite games” you can come up with using a balloon. Bring along a permanent marker (another potential kid-hazard, I know, but you can keep it locked down in your bag when not in use), and turn your balloon into a funny character. Don’t forget that age-old game of bouncing a balloon around and trying to make sure it doesn’t drop.
And how about inventing your very own balloon-themed game? I would say that as much as I dread traveling with kids, one of the upsides is that sometimes some of our most creative moments happen when we’re away from all our familiar trappings, and we have to think outside the box to come up with new ways of passing the time. I love how opened-ended playing with balloons can be.
So, kudos to this parent for sharing the genius hack with the world. I could definitely see it working wonders for my antsy little travelers. And I love the idea of us parents banding together to help with the often dreadful task of traveling with young kids. God knows we could all use any ounce of help we can get.